According to a recently published New York Times article, the number of people treated in hospitals for medication errors has increased over 50% within the past couple of years. A small number of these cases have resulted in medical malpractice lawsuits stemming from injuries from these errors. The Times article reveals that in 2008, there were 1.9 million people that became ill or were injured from medication side effects or because they took or were given the wrong type or dose of a specific medication. In 2004, only 1.2 million were injured according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
While patients' advocacy groups have been calling for reforms aiming to lessen the occurrences of these medication errors, the findings of this study clearly illustrate that this is a persistent problem. The data from the study only pertains to people that were treated in hospitals for their medication errors and the study did not include specific information as to the cause of the errors. Some of the errors resulted from a physician prescribing the wrong prescription drug or dosage; others occurred because a pharmacist or nurse gave the wrong drug, or because a patient at home used the wrong type or dose of medication.
In a 2006 study, the Institute of Medicine issued a report citing medication mistakes as the most commonly occurring medical error. The study estimated that these errors cost an additional $3.5 billion for lost wages, productivity and additional health care expenses. The study recommended improvements in communication between health care professionals and patients in order to reduce the alarming frequency of these errors. They also suggested the creation of consumer-friendly information resource for patients to obtain drug information.
A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer representing a client in a medication error case elucidated that better naming, labeling and packaging of many drugs was needed to reduce confusion and prevent errors and that most cases regarding medication errors stemmed from errors surrounding these particular circumstances.